April 26, 2021

Advance Bar Prep Part One: Understanding Your Why


Written by: Scot Goins, Director of Academic Achievement and Bar Success

In part one of this series on advance bar prep planning, I want to discuss the importance of engaging in a thoughtful, purposeful approach at the beginning of the bar preparation process. Too often, recent law school graduates wait until the start date of their commercial bar prep course to engage in the bar preparation process, neglecting to engage in advance planning and then struggling with time management, motivation, anxiety, and an overwhelming sense of being behind. In this segment of the series, I want to introduce the first of four key components to successful advance planning in order to optimize your chances for being successful in your studies and passing the bar exam.

The first of these early planning components is ‘understanding your why.’ 

‘Understanding your why’ is a phrase that I utilize to assist students in preparing for the rigors of bar preparation. I truly believe that one of the reasons that students flounder and struggle with fatigue, self-doubt, frustration, and fear is because they lose sight of why they are participating in the process.

I’ll give you an example. Picture yourself watching a man in a suit pull up in a Tesla, jump out, and immediately dive into a dumpster. This behavior is perplexing on the surface, and you may find yourself pondering what in the world this gentleman is doing. However, if I told you that he accidentally threw his wallet away, along with his life savings that he was taking to a new bank, this behavior would quickly make sense. Understanding the man’s ‘why’ helped you understand what he was doing and his motivation for doing so.

However, many students forget to engage in this self-reflection before and during their bar prep process. Instead of thinking about everything that motivated them to be successful prior to the start of bar prep, many students instead think about the barriers between them and success, such as the long hours of study, the drudgery, essay writing practice, the possibility of failure, and a plethora of other unhelpful things. Not only does this not assist law school graduates in passing the bar exam, it actually demotivates them because they get too caught up in the day-to-day instead of focusing on the ‘why’ they are doing what they are doing. If you do not fully understand why you are doing something, it is hard to be motivated to engage in that activity for hours each and every day.

This then leads us to the question of how do we get students to successfully engage in changing their patterns and effectively engage in understanding their why?

“Stop rehearsing life’s failures. Use your beautiful imagination to visualize success.”

~Cheryl Richardson

As the above quote reflects, instead of getting caught in the mental trap of thinking about all of the barriers between you and success, let me encourage you to instead engage in the following mental exercise at least three times a day during the days leading up to the start of your bar preparation course, and to continue engaging in a similar manner daily during the bar prep process. As part of your daily schedule, I suggest that you perform the following mental exercise:

Take a deep breath and close your eyes. Think about every success that you have had that has led you to reaching this moment in time. Next, think about the most important people who sacrificed or assisted you in getting to this point. Then, imagine what it would be like to triumphantly tell those people about successfully passing the bar exam. Finally, try to feel your joy and happiness when you imagine receiving your passing score, and think about how proud you will be of your success.

Although this is a simple exercise, when performed regularly, it keeps you focused on several key things. It reminds you of your past success, and gives you confidence that you can be successful in the future. It helps you to appreciate where you are and how you got to the point in your life where you have the opportunity to realize your goals and become an attorney. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, picturing yourself being successful on the bar exam and sharing that moment with others is a powerful visualization technique that will instill confidence and motivate you.

Don’t believe me? Try engaging in that exercise now and write down how you feel afterwards. I think you will be pleasantly pleased. You will come to realize that you have a choice in how you approach bar prep, and that the coming months are not full of barriers to your success, but are instead paved with stepping stones on your path to achieving your goal of passing the bar exam.

Denis Waitley has a famous quote which sums it all up nicely, “When you visualize, you materialize.” Remember, you have the power to make your dreams a reality, and you control your journey to success. Put the work in, and you will succeed.

In the next part of this series, we will examine another often overlooked factor in bar success, ‘Friends and Family’. Until then, work hard, and remember to visualize daily to assist you in making your dreams of becoming an attorney a reality.